Monday, January 26, 2009

IBMi and PHP

Zend has covered a fair amount of ground in the last three years in their effort to support PHP on the IBM i. Looks like the future will be equally as thrilling. With an interest level that is at a fever pitch among the likes of IBM, industry analysts and customers I am seeing an accelerating adoption rate that indicates things are brighter than ever. So, why am I so cheerful in this economy? There is no better time for a company looking to deploy new solutions that exploit what open source and PHP have to offer the IBM i community.

Let’s say the CFO walks into the IT director’s office and says good news bad news. Good news is that you still have a budget. Bad news is that it has been slashed by 10-20-30% and you now have to decide where. But where do you go? What do you go after? IT shops everywhere are seeing what we call “compressed budgets”. He could spend the next five days calling all of your vendors to try and trim or eliminate the maintenance contracts. He could cut someone loose. After all, no one would bat an eyelash at seeing one more unemployment number. Or maybe it’s time to finally look at that open source desktop application in Lotus Notes or Open Office.

Over the years our customers have commented that they are looking at PHP for a number of reasons. The most common reason we are hearing in 2009 reflects that fact that open source is no longer an option or a luxury but strategic and cost effective! Linux, PHP, Open Office, it doesn’t matter. No cows are sacred in this new economy. The ability to deliver more with less is essential and open source can help that effort.

So, PHP is still here and with several improvements in the IBM Midrange space over the last three years. More features, numerous updates, consistent parallels with the community PHP code base and Eclipse as well as commitment from IBM to keep PHP as a strategic solution within the IBM i toolset.

So how does someone get on board this open source train? There are a bunch of articles out there that weigh the advantages of open source and discuss what you should be doing. But I recommend a slightly different approach. Even though the CFO starts with the budget I think that is the last place to start even though it is a good motivator. A true CIO will start with the business requirements. There has to be a need, strategy or an application in the user’s requirements that you have been considering. Only now consider it with a technology like PHP or Linux. Look at your current environment. You think you are not using open source technologies in you i5 environment? Take a good look at the IBM HTTP Server Powered by Apache, HMC or WDSc/RDi. People who use these products are using open source solutions! There is open source everywhere and bolted right onto the IBM i. IBM has been moving forward with open source for years. Why shouldn’t you?

But wait there’s more! You don’t need to leave your favorite platform to deliver world class open source solutions. All four components of the LAMP stack are available and supported on IBM i. If a Linux LPAR makes sense, then off you go. I prefer running PHP natively in IBM i 6.1 and PASE since Apache, MySQL and PHP are available for the low-low cost of NOTHING! Yes, you can get started loading and running Open Source applications like SugarCRM on your IBM i and not have to spend one thin dime. Invariably, many customers have come to us looking for enhanced support, training and tooling. After all, we are the PHP people! It really costs you nothing but a little time to look into PHP. And who wouldn’t be interested in a solution with a low price of admission in this economy.

But wait, there’s more! So it’s not just a new application, you also get a box of priceless tools! Must be why they are free. These include a superior runtime with which to deploy mission critical applications (Zend Core), full implementation of the industry leading Zend Framework that provides as much or as little community driven code as needed, and an integrated development environment to help develop and maintain those applications (Zend Studio).

Yeah the ride has been interesting, but it ain’t over. Not by a long shot!


  1. Hi Mike. What creepy timing. The I just opened up the Open Source Sandbox on the Young i Professionals website today. I have an installation of SugarCRM, running on IBM i, out there for anyone to play with.

    BTW, what happened to my January PHP class? :)

    Brian May

  2. Hi Brian! Yes, I have been told I have creepy timing :-)

    Glad to hear about your Sugar instance. it makes for a great discussion and solution!

    Your January PHP class probably fell victim to low enrollment. We need a minimum number of students before we can run the class. IBM has faced similar issues over the years. I think you should see it in is available in Feb.




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